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What Should You Know About Underage Drinking and Driving in Minnesota?

What Should You Know About Underage Drinking and Driving in Minnesota?Photo from Unsplash

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Underage Drinking and Driving is a misdemeanor in Minnesota as established in Minn. Stat.§ 169A.33, Subd. 3. (2023) Though misdemeanor is the lowest level of crime in Minnesota, Underage Drinking and Driving should not be taken lightly as it can still carry detrimental and lasting consequences.

For someone to be guilty of the crime of Underage Drinking and Driving, they need to be under the legal drinking age of 21 and they need to “drive, operate, or be in control of a motor vehicle,” either while drinking alcoholic beverages or after the fact when there exists “physical evidence of the consumption present in the person’s body,” as described in Minn. Stat. 169A.33, subd. 2. (2023). Breathalyzer results showing alcohol in the system would be “evidence of consumption.”

Note that based on the language of the statute, the person may not necessarily be caught in the act of driving; they merely need to “be in control” of the vehicle. What exactly it means to “be in control” of a vehicle is an oft litigated issue. An underaged person with alcohol in their system who is found behind the wheel of a parked vehicle may still be adjudicated guilty of this offense, even without evidence of them having driven.

Also note that “motor vehicle” doesn’t necessarily mean a car. “Motor vehicle” is defined in this context as “every vehicle that is self propelled,” in Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, Subd. 15. (2023). This includes, but is not limited to “motorboats in operation,” ATVs, and snowmobiles.

Underage Drinking and Driving is different from the crime of Driving While Impaired (DWI), though they fall into the same category of offense. This means someone under the age of 21 can be charged with Underage Drinking and Driving for any amount of alcohol in their system, even if their blood alcohol concentration is under the 0.08 limit for DWI.

Consequences of a Conviction for Underage Drinking and Driving in Minnesota

If someone is convicted of Underage Drinking and Driving in Minnesota, they will automatically have their driver’s license suspended for 30 days. If they have previously been convicted of this crime they will automatically have their license suspended for 180 days. (Minn. Stat. 169A.33, subd. 4. (2023))

Additionally, because this crime is a misdemeanor, if convicted you may face up to a $1000 fine, up to 90 days in jail, or both. (Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 12.(2023))

Contact The Law Office of Lauren Campoli about Your Teen’s Underage Drinking and Driving Case

The Law Office of Lauren Campoli handled a case in which a teenage client had been pulled over for speeding after drinking alcoholic beverages earlier in the evening. The teen was breathalyzed and alcohol was detected in his system. The teen’s blood alcohol concentration was below the 0.08 level, but due to his age, he was charged with Underage Drinking and Driving, as well as a few other traffic related offenses. Campoli Law utilized several litigation and negotiation strategies that resulted in the dismissal of numerous charges and ultimately the case, for her client.

Aside from the legal penalties, having an Underaged Drinking and Driving conviction on your record is less than ideal for a young person as it can be a barrier to employment and educational opportunities. If you or a loved one is facing an Underage Drinking and Driving charge and want an attorney who will fight to keep it off your record, contact the Law Office of Lauren Campoli today.

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